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WNBL: Bendigo shoot straight to the top
The Bendigo Spirit have stamped their authority in an unpredictable Round 4 of the WNBL, knocking off both powerhouses in the Dandenong Rangers and Townsville Fire on the road to shoot to the top of the table.
The Spirit's depth was on display against the Rangers with 6 players making it into double figures. It was obvious the Spirit put in the hard yards after a disappointing outcome the week before, coming out all guns blazing in collecting 41 rebounds and keeping the Rangers to just 23.
Steph Cumming tried all she could for the Rangers with 24 points and 5 assists, as did Sara Blicavs and Lauren Scherf, but they just couldn't find a response to Bendigo's depth or restrict their scoring.
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe was again brilliant with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Kerryn Harrington, Ashley Karaitiana and Kelsey Griffin showed their outside dominance, combining for 10 3-pointers between them. It was this brilliant shooting that put the Rangers out of touch, and allowed Bendigo to bank their second win against them.
It was hard to predict that Bendigo would fly to Townsville and win, especially after the reigning champions suffered two losses in Round 3 and were expected to bounce back with full force. Never the less, they did exactly that.
The Spirit were again led by their gun, athletic import Raincock-Ekunwe who had 14 points and 10 rebounds, securing two double-doubles in the one weekend to also claim Round 4's Player of the Week.
Reigning league MVP Suzy Batkovic tried to get the Fire going, but Bendigo were capable of a more even spread of contributors and again were dominant on the boards. The Spirit totalled 52 rebounds to the Fire's 33, proving that their strength inside is going to be a force.
After winning both games in Round 3, the Melbourne Boomers weren't able to back it up this weekend after losing both of their matches.
The Canberra Capitals kicked things off Friday night and overcame the Boomers by 9 points. Mikaela Ruef tore the Boomers apart inside the paint, scoring 12 points and pulling down a massive 22 rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. She had more rebounds than any player had points in the contest. Lauren Mansfield showed off her slick ball handling skills and was brilliant with 13 points and 7 assists.
The Boomers weren't able to get going against the Capitals and they struggled to get scores on the board, as no one reached double figures. Chante Black challenged Marianna Tolo defensively and Alice Kunek attempted to get them going, but it just wasn't enough to get them over the line.
As expected, the Perth Lynx gave Adelaide a hiding by 32 points. Sami Whitcomb was again in MVP-like form, scoring 29 points on 65% shooting, and adding 6 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals in only 25 minutes of game time. The fast paced guard has been blowing the competition away with her shooting and attack, and no doubt would be enjoying the fact that fellow guard Tessa Lavey is back in the side to help with the point position.
It was all Laura Hodges again for the Lightning, who need to find some support for the veteran to be able to get some wins on the board.
Monday night's cross-town rivalry clash was all that it could have hoped to be, as Dandenong claimed the Timms Cup by just 2 points in a thriller, doing so without the inured Natalie Novosel (who missed both games across the weekend).
It came down to Cumming, who was able to draw a foul and knock down two free throws with 2.5 seconds to go. However it was Sara Blicavs work across the entire 40 minutes of the game that excelled Dandenong to the win, picking up 28 points and 6 rebounds. Amelia Todhunter surprised her former club, collecting 12 rebounds and 5 steals to provide some sparks for the Rangers off the bench.
Either team would have been unlucky to lose this one, and unfortunately it was the Boomers. Maddie Garrick stop scored for Melbourne with 18 points, and was helped by Brittany Smart and Chante Black who were also solid.
The ladder now sits with Bendigo on top, followed closely by Dandenong and Perth. Check out all the Round 4 Highlights below:
Round 5 Previews
Townsville Fire v Sydney Uni Flames
After two disappointing previous games, the Fire are sure to be raring to take on the Flames this weekend. Sydney had the weekend off and will have fresh legs and the Fire need to find some consistent form. Signs of a potential injury to Darcee Garbin, and Batkovic playing with an injured ankle doesn't do any favours for Townsville. Going with Sydney for another close one.
Mia Murray vs Asia Taylor
Bendigo Spirit vs Canberra Capitals
Bendigo don't look like anything is going to get in their way after Round 4, however expecting the Capitals to bring their consistent form. Rebounds will be huge in this game. Going with Bendigo at home.
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe vs Mikaela Ruef
Dandenong Rangers vs Canberra Capitals
The Capitals have a tough double-header in Victoria, coming up against 1st and 2nd on the ladder. A lot will depend on the night before but Capitals could have the upper hand with this game with their inside dominance.
Lauren Scherf vs Marianna Tolo
Perth Lynx vs Melbourne Boomers
The Boomers will be looking to get back on the winners list however the Lynx just don't look like losing at home. Boomers will need to be ready to run and hassle to be able to stop Perth's offence.
Sami Whitcomb vs Maddie Garrick